Facing criticism, President praises immigration bill

President Bush Saturday, facing criticism from conservatives in his own party, praised the immigration compromise that his administration reached with senators from both parties this week.

“This legislation includes all the elements required for comprehensive immigration reform,” Bush said. He lauded the legislation for mandating increased border security, a worker verification protocol, a temporary work program and a process to “resolve the status of millions of illegal immigrants who are here already, without animosity and without amnesty.”

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The president stressed that the bill would create border security benchmarks that must be met before triggering other aspects of the legislation, like the temporary worker program. These benchmarks include doubling “the number of Border Patrol agents, improving border infrastructure, and maintaining enough beds in our detention facilities so that all those apprehended at the border can be held and returned to their home countries.” Additionally, the legislation stipulates the creation of tamper-resistant identification cards to verify worker eligibility and increases penalties on companies that knowingly employ illegal workers.

Addressing the major criticism conservative lawmakers have leveled against the legislation, Bush stressed that the legislation would not provide amnesty to the millions of illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S.

Illegal immigrants, the president said, would have to satisfy numerous requirements, including paying a fine, learning English, holding a job and passing a citizenship test before becoming eligible for citizenship.

But these stipulations failed to satisfy some of the conservative members of the president’s party. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) called the legislation an “amnesty plan” that “will be a slap in the face to hard working Americans and those who have come here to work legally.”

Tancredo, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination, also took swipe at first-tier Republican candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who helped draft the legislation.

“Sen. McCain and his allies seem to think that they can dupe the American public into accepting a blanket amnesty if they just call it ‘comprehensive’ or ‘earned legalization’ or ‘regularization,’” Tancredo said. “Unfortunately for them, however, the American people know amnesty when they see it.”